I still don't understand
I could have titled this article "I understand even less". Asa wrote the following in a comment on an article on Gerv's blog:
We have and we will break add-on API compatibility with every release, certainly binary add-on compat
I spent part of the night thinking about it but still, "Urgh..." is the only thing that comes immediately to my mind. I'm shocked, so shocked, you could not believe how shocked I am. Bumping version numbers every six weeks for strictly declarative (xul/js/css/xbl) add-ons is one thing and breaking binary compatibility for binary-based add-ons is another one. The former case is painful but doable in a lot of cases. I still think that add-on authors (I am an add-on author) will rapidly feel the pain but that's nothing in comparison with breaking binary compatibility every six weeks...
Some years ago, I contracted for Wengo, the VoIP division of a major telecom player here in France. We took their huge pile of binary libs, encapsulated them into binary components (painful but still simpler than js-ctypes) and I built both a SIP-based VoIP add-on for Firefox and a standalone application on that basis. Quite impressive, I must say. With a mandatory recurrent six weeks XPCOM component update/rebuild/reship process, my client would never have done that work because that's impossible to sustain.
On a more personal note, some of my personal add-ons to Firefox are binary-based, and there is no way I can dedicate time every six weeks to them. Most add-on authors work on add-ons on their personal time and will be in the same case.
Add-ons are the major plus Firefox and Thunderbird has over browser competitors. That ecosystem is unique. Harming that ecosystem is a counter-productive decision of such a magnitude I am completely lost these days reading Mozilla's strategic decisions. It seems to me the path taken is an engineer's path, not a market-based one. It seems to me based on a wrong analysis of the market, the competition, the users' needs and the marketable differentiating factors.
Our PR team and our Marketing team are happy with the current system and they're the ones on the front lines of "publicity". Also, that negative publicity has already happened. It's in the past. It may happen to a much lesser degree with 6 and probably even less with 7 and eventually it goes away as the version number disappearing act finishes
I think I see what's going on here. Asa is betting on the extinction of the criticisms over time. That's why despite of the incredibly negative press world-wide, we saw no serious reaction and why no improvement has been seriously discussed. The weekly meeting minutes of Moz are, from that perspective, incredible: almost no mention of the world-wide fuss Asa generated two weeks ago. First, that's certainly not how the community feels Mozilla should react. Gerv seems to agree (see comment starting with "That is one of the most depressing things I've seen you write in a long time"). This feels like an occasion long ago when Blake Ross was forced to "discuss in Bugzilla" something he had made a decision on, and responded by posting there one single word: "discuss."
At this point, and I never thought I could say that one day, I don't trust any more Mozilla's strategy for Firefox. I don't trust any more its Product Manager for Desktop Firefox. It's not the person, it's the strategy. I'm not angry, I'm incredibly sad. During all these years, I tried to draw the attention on markets addressable by Moz and not addressable by other browsers. I failed. During all these years, I did all my best to give my opinion about how to extend the ecosystem, the true cornerstone of Firefox's success. I succeeded implementing these ideas for my own product, BlueGriffon, but I failed for Firefox. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
At this point, I think the CEO of Mozilla should talk, loud and clear, and talk about this more with both the community and the users. Enough with corporate blah-blah, and I could say corporate bullshit.